Anne Cutler

Publications

Displaying 1 - 18 of 18
  • Bruggeman, L., & Cutler, A. (2020). No L1 privilege in talker adaptation. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 23(3), 681-693. doi:10.1017/S1366728919000646.

    Abstract

    As a rule, listening is easier in first (L1) than second languages (L2); difficult L2 listening can challenge even highly proficient users. We here examine one particular listening function, adaptation to novel talkers, in such a high-proficiency population: Dutch emigrants to Australia, predominantly using English outside the family, but all also retaining L1 proficiency. Using lexically-guided perceptual learning (Norris, McQueen & Cutler, 2003), we investigated these listeners’ adaptation to an ambiguous speech sound, in parallel experiments in both their L1 and their L2. A control study established that perceptual learning outcomes were unaffected by the procedural measures required for this double comparison. The emigrants showed equivalent proficiency in tests in both languages, robust perceptual adaptation in their L2, English, but no adaptation in L1. We propose that adaptation to novel talkers is a language-specific skill requiring regular novel practice; a limited set of known (family) interlocutors cannot meet this requirement.
  • Ip, M. H. K., & Cutler, A. (2020). Universals of listening: Equivalent prosodic entrainment in tone and non-tone languages. Cognition, 202: 104311. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104311.

    Abstract

    In English and Dutch, listeners entrain to prosodic contours to predict where focus will fall in an utterance. Here, we ask whether this strategy is universally available, even in languages with very different phonological systems (e.g., tone versus non-tone languages). In a phoneme detection experiment, we examined whether prosodic entrainment also occurs in Mandarin Chinese, a tone language, where the use of various suprasegmental cues to lexical identity may take precedence over their use in salience. Consistent with the results from Germanic languages, response times were facilitated when preceding intonation predicted high stress on the target-bearing word, and the lexical tone of the target word (i.e., rising versus falling) did not affect the Mandarin listeners' response. Further, the extent to which prosodic entrainment was used to detect the target phoneme was the same in both English and Mandarin listeners. Nevertheless, native Mandarin speakers did not adopt an entrainment strategy when the sentences were presented in English, consistent with the suggestion that L2 listening may be strained by additional functional load from prosodic processing. These findings have implications for how universal and language-specific mechanisms interact in the perception of focus structure in everyday discourse.

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    supplementary data
  • Mandal, S., Best, C. T., Shaw, J., & Cutler, A. (2020). Bilingual phonology in dichotic perception: A case study of Malayalam and English voicing. Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics, 5(1): 73. doi:10.5334/gjgl.853.

    Abstract

    Listeners often experience cocktail-party situations, encountering multiple ongoing conversa- tions while tracking just one. Capturing the words spoken under such conditions requires selec- tive attention and processing, which involves using phonetic details to discern phonological structure. How do bilinguals accomplish this in L1-L2 competition? We addressed that question using a dichotic listening task with fluent Malayalam-English bilinguals, in which they were pre- sented with synchronized nonce words, one in each language in separate ears, with competing onsets of a labial stop (Malayalam) and a labial fricative (English), both voiced or both voiceless. They were required to attend to the Malayalam or the English item, in separate blocks, and report the initial consonant they heard. We found that perceptual intrusions from the unattended to the attended language were influenced by voicing, with more intrusions on voiced than voiceless tri- als. This result supports our proposal for the feature specification of consonants in Malayalam- English bilinguals, which makes use of privative features, underspecification and the “standard approach” to laryngeal features, as against “laryngeal realism”. Given this representational account, we observe that intrusions result from phonetic properties in the unattended signal being assimilated to the closest matching phonological category in the attended language, and are more likely for segments with a greater number of phonological feature specifications.
  • Ullas, S., Formisano, E., Eisner, F., & Cutler, A. (2020). Audiovisual and lexical cues do not additively enhance perceptual adaptation. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 27, 707-715. doi:10.3758/s13423-020-01728-5.

    Abstract

    When listeners experience difficulty in understanding a speaker, lexical and audiovisual (or lipreading) information can be a helpful source of guidance. These two types of information embedded in speech can also guide perceptual adjustment, also known as recalibration or perceptual retuning. With retuning or recalibration, listeners can use these contextual cues to temporarily or permanently reconfigure internal representations of phoneme categories to adjust to and understand novel interlocutors more easily. These two types of perceptual learning, previously investigated in large part separately, are highly similar in allowing listeners to use speech-external information to make phoneme boundary adjustments. This study explored whether the two sources may work in conjunction to induce adaptation, thus emulating real life, in which listeners are indeed likely to encounter both types of cue together. Listeners who received combined audiovisual and lexical cues showed perceptual learning effects similar to listeners who only received audiovisual cues, while listeners who received only lexical cues showed weaker effects compared with the two other groups. The combination of cues did not lead to additive retuning or recalibration effects, suggesting that lexical and audiovisual cues operate differently with regard to how listeners use them for reshaping perceptual categories. Reaction times did not significantly differ across the three conditions, so none of the forms of adjustment were either aided or hindered by processing time differences. Mechanisms underlying these forms of perceptual learning may diverge in numerous ways despite similarities in experimental applications.

    Additional information

    Data and materials
  • Ullas, S., Formisano, E., Eisner, F., & Cutler, A. (2020). Interleaved lexical and audiovisual information can retune phoneme boundaries. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 82, 2018-2026. doi:10.3758/s13414-019-01961-8.

    Abstract

    To adapt to situations in which speech perception is difficult, listeners can adjust boundaries between phoneme categories using perceptual learning. Such adjustments can draw on lexical information in surrounding speech, or on visual cues via speech-reading. In the present study, listeners proved they were able to flexibly adjust the boundary between two plosive/stop consonants, /p/-/t/, using both lexical and speech-reading information and given the same experimental design for both cue types. Videos of a speaker pronouncing pseudo-words and audio recordings of Dutch words were presented in alternating blocks of either stimulus type. Listeners were able to switch between cues to adjust phoneme boundaries, and resulting effects were comparable to results from listeners receiving only a single source of information. Overall, audiovisual cues (i.e., the videos) produced the stronger effects, commensurate with their applicability for adapting to noisy environments. Lexical cues were able to induce effects with fewer exposure stimuli and a changing phoneme bias, in a design unlike most prior studies of lexical retuning. While lexical retuning effects were relatively weaker compared to audiovisual recalibration, this discrepancy could reflect how lexical retuning may be more suitable for adapting to speakers than to environments. Nonetheless, the presence of the lexical retuning effects suggests that it may be invoked at a faster rate than previously seen. In general, this technique has further illuminated the robustness of adaptability in speech perception, and offers the potential to enable further comparisons across differing forms of perceptual learning.
  • Ullas, S., Hausfeld, L., Cutler, A., Eisner, F., & Formisano, E. (2020). Neural correlates of phonetic adaptation as induced by lexical and audiovisual context. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 32(11), 2145-2158. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01608.

    Abstract

    When speech perception is difficult, one way listeners adjust is by reconfiguring phoneme category boundaries, drawing on contextual information. Both lexical knowledge and lipreading cues are used in this way, but it remains unknown whether these two differing forms of perceptual learning are similar at a neural level. This study compared phoneme boundary adjustments driven by lexical or audiovisual cues, using ultra-high-field 7-T fMRI. During imaging, participants heard exposure stimuli and test stimuli. Exposure stimuli for lexical retuning were audio recordings of words, and those for audiovisual recalibration were audio–video recordings of lip movements during utterances of pseudowords. Test stimuli were ambiguous phonetic strings presented without context, and listeners reported what phoneme they heard. Reports reflected phoneme biases in preceding exposure blocks (e.g., more reported /p/ after /p/-biased exposure). Analysis of corresponding brain responses indicated that both forms of cue use were associated with a network of activity across the temporal cortex, plus parietal, insula, and motor areas. Audiovisual recalibration also elicited significant occipital cortex activity despite the lack of visual stimuli. Activity levels in several ROIs also covaried with strength of audiovisual recalibration, with greater activity accompanying larger recalibration shifts. Similar activation patterns appeared for lexical retuning, but here, no significant ROIs were identified. Audiovisual and lexical forms of perceptual learning thus induce largely similar brain response patterns. However, audiovisual recalibration involves additional visual cortex contributions, suggesting that previously acquired visual information (on lip movements) is retrieved and deployed to disambiguate auditory perception.
  • Cutler, A., & Norris, D. (2016). Bottoms up! How top-down pitfalls ensnare speech perception researchers too. Commentary on C. Firestone & B. Scholl: Cognition does not affect perception: Evaluating the evidence for 'top-down' effects. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, e236. doi:10.1017/S0140525X15002745.

    Abstract

    Not only can the pitfalls that Firestone & Scholl (F&S) identify be generalised across multiple studies within the field of visual perception, but also they have general application outside the field wherever perceptual and cognitive processing are compared. We call attention to the widespread susceptibility of research on the perception of speech to versions of the same pitfalls.
  • Norris, D., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2016). Prediction, Bayesian inference and feedback in speech recognition. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 31(1), 4-18. doi:10.1080/23273798.2015.1081703.

    Abstract

    Speech perception involves prediction, but how is that prediction implemented? In cognitive models prediction has often been taken to imply that there is feedback of activation from lexical to pre-lexical processes as implemented in interactive-activation models (IAMs). We show that simple activation feedback does not actually improve speech recognition. However, other forms of feedback can be beneficial. In particular, feedback can enable the listener to adapt to changing input, and can potentially help the listener to recognise unusual input, or recognise speech in the presence of competing sounds. The common feature of these helpful forms of feedback is that they are all ways of optimising the performance of speech recognition using Bayesian inference. That is, listeners make predictions about speech because speech recognition is optimal in the sense captured in Bayesian models.
  • Cutler, A., Kearns, R., Norris, D., & Scott, D. R. (1993). Problems with click detection: Insights from cross-linguistic comparisons. Speech Communication, 13, 401-410. doi:10.1016/0167-6393(93)90038-M.

    Abstract

    Cross-linguistic comparisons may shed light on the levels of processing involved in the performance of psycholinguistic tasks. For instance, if the same pattern of results appears whether or not subjects understand the experimental materials, it may be concluded that the results do not reflect higher-level linguistic processing. In the present study, English and French listeners performed two tasks - click location and speeded click detection - with both English and French sentences, closely matched for syntactic and phonological structure. Clicks were located more accurately in open- than in closed-class words in both English and French; they were detected more rapidly in open- than in closed-class words in English, but not in French. The two listener groups produced the same pattern of responses, suggesting that higher-level linguistic processing was not involved in the listeners' responses. It is concluded that click detection tasks are primarily sensitive to low-level (e.g. acoustic) effects, and hence are not well suited to the investigation of linguistic processing.
  • Cutler, A. (1993). Segmentation problems, rhythmic solutions. Lingua, 92, 81-104. doi:10.1016/0024-3841(94)90338-7.

    Abstract

    The lexicon contains discrete entries, which must be located in speech input in order for speech to be understood; but the continuity of speech signals means that lexical access from spoken input involves a segmentation problem for listeners. The speech environment of prelinguistic infants may not provide special information to assist the infant listeners in solving this problem. Mature language users in possession of a lexicon might be thought to be able to avoid explicit segmentation of speech by relying on information from successful lexical access; however, evidence from adult perceptual studies indicates that listeners do use explicit segmentation procedures. These procedures differ across languages and seem to exploit language-specific rhythmic structure. Efficient as these procedures are, they may not have been developed in response to statistical properties of the input, because bilinguals, equally competent in two languages, apparently only possess one rhythmic segmentation procedure. The origin of rhythmic segmentation may therefore lie in the infant's exploitation of rhythm to solve the segmentation problem and gain a first toehold on lexical acquisition. Recent evidence from speech production and perception studies with prelinguistic infants supports the claim that infants are sensitive to rhythmic structure and its relationship to lexical segmentation.
  • Cutler, A. (1993). Segmenting speech in different languages. The Psychologist, 6(10), 453-455.
  • Cutler, A. (1993). Phonological cues to open- and closed-class words in the processing of spoken sentences. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 22, 109-131.

    Abstract

    Evidence is presented that (a) the open and the closed word classes in English have different phonological characteristics, (b) the phonological dimension on which they differ is one to which listeners are highly sensitive, and (c) spoken open- and closed-class words produce different patterns of results in some auditory recognition tasks. What implications might link these findings? Two recent lines of evidence from disparate paradigms—the learning of an artificial language, and natural and experimentally induced misperception of juncture—are summarized, both of which suggest that listeners are sensitive to the phonological reflections of open- vs. closed-class word status. Although these correlates cannot be strictly necessary for efficient processing, if they are present listeners exploit them in making word class assignments. That such a use of phonological information is of value to listeners could be indirect evidence that open- vs. closed-class words undergo different processing operations. Parts of the research reported in this paper were carried out in collaboration with Sally Butterfield and David Carter, and supported by the Alvey Directorate (United Kingdom). Jonathan Stankler's master's research was supported by the Science and Engineering Research Council (United Kingdom). Thanks to all of the above, and to Merrill Garrett, Mike Kelly, James McQueen, and Dennis Norris for further assistance.
  • Cutler, A., & Mehler, J. (1993). The periodicity bias. Journal of Phonetics, 21, 101-108.
  • Jusczyk, P. W., Cutler, A., & Redanz, N. J. (1993). Infants’ preference for the predominant stress patterns of English words. Child Development, 64, 675-687. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131210.

    Abstract

    One critical aspect of language acquisition is the development of a lexicon that associates sounds and meanings; but developing a lexicon first requires that the infant segment utterances into individual words. How might the infant begin this process? The present study was designed to examine the potential role that sensitivity to predominant stress patterns of words might play in lexical development. In English, by far the majority of words have stressed (strong) initial syllables. Experiment 1 of our study demonstrated that by 9 months of age American infants listen significantly longer to words with strong/weak stress patterns than to words with weak/strong stress patterns. However, Experiment 2 showed that no significant preferences for the predominant stress pattern appear with 6-month-old infants, which suggests that the preference develops as a result of increasing familiarity with the prosodic features of the native language. In a third experiment, 9-month-olds showed a preference for strong/weak patterns even when the speech input was low-pass filtered, which suggests that their preference is specifically for the prosodic structure of the words. Together the results suggest that attention to predominant stress patterns in the native language may form an important part of the infant's process of developing a lexicon.
  • Nix, A. J., Mehta, G., Dye, J., & Cutler, A. (1993). Phoneme detection as a tool for comparing perception of natural and synthetic speech. Computer Speech and Language, 7, 211-228. doi:10.1006/csla.1993.1011.

    Abstract

    On simple intelligibility measures, high-quality synthesiser output now scores almost as well as natural speech. Nevertheless, it is widely agreed that perception of synthetic speech is a harder task for listeners than perception of natural speech; in particular, it has been hypothesized that listeners have difficulty identifying phonemes in synthetic speech. If so, a simple measure of the speed with which a phoneme can be identified should prove a useful tool for comparing perception of synthetic and natural speech. The phoneme detection task was here used in three experiments comparing perception of natural and synthetic speech. In the first, response times to synthetic and natural targets were not significantly different, but in the second and third experiments response times to synthetic targets were significantly slower than to natural targets. A speed-accuracy tradeoff in the third experiment suggests that an important factor in this task is the response criterion adopted by subjects. It is concluded that the phoneme detection task is a useful tool for investigating phonetic processing of synthetic speech input, but subjects must be encouraged to adopt a response criterion which emphasizes rapid responding. When this is the case, significantly longer response times for synthetic targets can indicate a processing disadvantage for synthetic speech at an early level of phonetic analysis.
  • Otake, T., Hatano, G., Cutler, A., & Mehler, J. (1993). Mora or syllable? Speech segmentation in Japanese. Journal of Memory and Language, 32, 258-278. doi:10.1006/jmla.1993.1014.

    Abstract

    Four experiments examined segmentation of spoken Japanese words by native and non-native listeners. Previous studies suggested that language rhythm determines the segmentation unit most natural to native listeners: French has syllabic rhythm, and French listeners use the syllable in segmentation, while English has stress rhythm, and segmentation by English listeners is based on stress. The rhythm of Japanese is based on a subsyllabic unit, the mora. In the present experiments Japanese listeners′ response patterns were consistent with moraic segmentation; acoustic artifacts could not have determined the results since nonnative (English and French) listeners showed different response patterns with the same materials. Predictions of a syllabic hypothesis were disconfirmed in the Japanese listeners′ results; in contrast, French listeners showed a pattern of responses consistent with the syllabic hypothesis. The results provide further evidence that listeners′ segmentation of spoken words relies on procedures determined by the characteristic phonology of their native language.
  • Cutler, A., Mehler, J., Norris, D., & Segui, J. (1983). A language-specific comprehension strategy [Letters to Nature]. Nature, 304, 159-160. doi:10.1038/304159a0.

    Abstract

    Infants acquire whatever language is spoken in the environment into which they are born. The mental capability of the newborn child is not biased in any way towards the acquisition of one human language rather than another. Because psychologists who attempt to model the process of language comprehension are interested in the structure of the human mind, rather than in the properties of individual languages, strategies which they incorporate in their models are presumed to be universal, not language-specific. In other words, strategies of comprehension are presumed to be characteristic of the human language processing system, rather than, say, the French, English, or Igbo language processing systems. We report here, however, on a comprehension strategy which appears to be used by native speakers of French but not by native speakers of English.
  • Levelt, W. J. M., & Cutler, A. (1983). Prosodic marking in speech repair. Journal of semantics, 2, 205-217. doi:10.1093/semant/2.2.205.

    Abstract

    Spontaneous self-corrections in speech pose a communication problem; the speaker must make clear to the listener not only that the original Utterance was faulty, but where it was faulty and how the fault is to be corrected. Prosodic marking of corrections - making the prosody of the repair noticeably different from that of the original utterance - offers a resource which the speaker can exploit to provide the listener with such information. A corpus of more than 400 spontaneous speech repairs was analysed, and the prosodic characteristics compared with the syntactic and semantic characteristics of each repair. Prosodic marking showed no relationship at all with the syntactic characteristics of repairs. Instead, marking was associated with certain semantic factors: repairs were marked when the original utterance had been actually erroneous, rather than simply less appropriate than the repair; and repairs tended to be marked more often when the set of items encompassing the error and the repair was small rather than when it was large. These findings lend further weight to the characterization of accent as essentially semantic in function.

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